When we set out to explore our inner realm, many times words escape us; verbal understanding can be hard to come by – and if you are a teenager there is no reference point and it is like going into a very thick fog.
Rather than purse the journey with words we can see what can be discovered using pictures. After all our first language is pictures.
One of my past positions was clinical director for a trekking program for at risk teens. I would go into the field where they were camping for that day. The teens were in groups of 12 – all boys or all girls. I would meet up with a group and conduct a “therapeutic” activity.
This time it was a girls group. I had a box I had carried on the hike into their camp. The girls circled up and we all set down on the ground.
As a counselor I was well aware that “talk” therapy with teens is not very effective. Their trekking required completing school work and self-reflection work daily. For group we wanted to further their inner journey.
Our activity for the day was Mandalas. Mandalas are a circle art considered sacred in many cultures. We were going to explore the question “What is my story or Who am I” through Mandalas.
Each girl was handed a piece of cardboard to use as their table. They were provided a black piece of paper and white pencils.
That caught the girls off guard as it was not the usual white paper and lead pencils.
Oh my how they groaned and went on about how they could not draw; what a sill activity (and yes their vocabulary was much more colorful then “silly”).
However because of the parameters of the program they would go through the exercise.
The first step they were asked to do was draw a white circle using a template on the black paper. That they decided they could handle. Again they shook their heads as the silly activity.
Next they were asked to write the question on the back of the black paper with the white pencil. “What is my story or Who am I”
They turned the paper back over to the circle. I asked them to close their eyes and visualize a picture as an answer to the question. Breathe softly, be patient, and see what picture come to mind in answer to the question.
At first they may just see squiggly lines or a vague outline or a splash of color. Then an image may begin to form.
They were asked to use the white pencil and begin to sketch the picture on the black paper.
All was quiet. We were sitting under trees on the ground. The sun was shining. There was a breeze. Insects were buzzing. Birds were calling. Animals were wandering by or watching the group from afar.
The girls sketched the image they say in their minds eye of their story or self-portrait.
They were asked to add shading and emphasis with the white pencil.
Then colored pencils were passed around and traded as they added color to the answer to their question.
After a time white and colored pencils were put back in the box.
The girls were asked to lay their pictures on the ground in front of themselves so all could see. They were amazed at what they had drawn themselves and what others had created.
Now came the time to tell the story of their picture. Each story each girl shared was heart felt and opened doors to that inner world that was so well known and yet not understood. There were tears of sadness and hurt and tears of joy.
Not all the words could come at that time together. They continued to explore their inner journey through their reflection and journaling time.
This was another step on their inner journey. This was tool they could use for further travels at a later time.
Drawing with white pencils on black paper. Drawing from the unknown and darkness with light from within.